Koen speaks…

Sharing my experiences of self-learning Korean language!

Do you have a Language Privilege? — August 5, 2018

Do you have a Language Privilege?

Since my early teenage years, I had always wondered whether one’s nationality or gender has any effect on one’s capability to learn a language better.

I stumbled on this thought when I attended some lecture at school by a foreign teacher. I don’t exactly remember what the lecture was all about, but I remember the teacher telling us that we were quite lucky because, as per her, we have a neutral accent. So, basically, she was saying that we (the Nepalese) were lucky in terms of language learning, because we have a neutral accent. After that incident, the more I thought about it, the more it seemed true. And once I started learning Korean, I was reminded of this fact every single time.

As a Nepali growing up in one of the most culturally rich South Asian nations, Nepal, we essentially learn or know at least four languages: Nepali (네팔어,the national language), English (영어, the official teaching language at most schools, at least in all cites), one’s caste specific language (Newari 네왈어, in my case; Every caste has their own unique language), and Hindi (인도,that we learn from massive exposure to Indian television). And if you have a close friend that belongs to some other caste or if you live in a community with majority of people from some other caste, you are most likely to learn a fifth or even a sixth language.

So I know four languages just because I am a Nepali. I am fluent in Nepali and English. And I fully understand Newari and Hindi (but my speaking skills aren’t that good). And I am learning Korean. So, that makes it five. Therefore, my brain is already wired to handle multiple languages. Out of the four languages that I know, three (Nepali, Hindi and Newari) are quite similar in terms of structure, syntax and vocabulary (to some extent) although there are some stark differences as well; whereas English has a completely different structure on its own.

As for Korean, when I first started learning Korean, I picked up the basics such as the sentence structure, verb conjugation, etc., quite easily. I used to watch a lot of videos on YouTube (TTMIK, Koreanclass101, Conversational Korean, sweetandtastyTV and many more), and learn the verbs, basic nouns, pronouns, etc. I also used to look up a lot of videos and blog posts about how other foreigners were learning Korean, things like “tips for learning Korean or learning a second language, in general”.  And I began noticing that many people, mostly non-Asian English speaking Korean learners, struggled quite a lot, mostly at the beginning with the Korean sentence structure. But I couldn’t understand why that was the case, because for me, the sentence structure in Korean S-O-V “난 학교에 간다” which is “I to school go” in English was a very simple concept. You just push the verb to the end of the sentence. Moreover, although my native language is Nepali, I was learning Korean in English as well, the same way these English speakers were doing. So, I wondered why the whole verb-at-the-end-of-the-sentence” thing was not a problem for me at all. But, I felt quite stupid afterwards, when I realized that the whole S-O-V structure is exactly what Nepali AND Newari AND Hindi follows too. (It surprisingly did took me quite a long time to realize that, as I was translating everything in English while learning Korean!) Therefore, although I was learning Korean in English, my brain was already used to shoving the verb to the end of the sentence. So the Korean structuring was nothing new for my brain at all.

This made me realize that just because I was a Nepali (still am btw), I could easily skip the whole process of wrapping my head around many concepts, the sentence structure being just one case. Well, I am not talking about just a simple “I go to school” structure, much longer sentences in Korean have an almost identical translation in Nepali. That is why, all I needed to do was learn the words, build my vocabulary and I was all good to go. For example, a sentence like “I got tons of compliments for my looks at yesterday’s party”  which is something like “Ma hijo office ko party ma gako ta sable malai kasto ramri dekheko vane”, is almost identical in Korean: 어제 (난) 회사 파티에 갔더니, 다들 정말 예쁘다고 말했다/칭찬했다. To illustrate what I am saying, let’s see a whole dialogue.

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A side-effect of learning languages, One that you can’t help but love! — December 27, 2015

A side-effect of learning languages, One that you can’t help but love!

안녕하세요 여러분! 진짜 오랜마넵니다!

Hi Everybody! I’m BAAAACCCCKKKK after REAALLLYYYY a long time!

I always tried to write at least one post every week, but for the past six weeks or so I haven’t been able to write a single post. (A SINGLE POST! My Goodness!) It actually feels like ages! So, I couldn’t wait to get back to it!

The reason why I was so busy was that I recently started a new job. YEAH! ㅎㅎㅎ

It’s actually my first, proper job ever!  So I am working full time now. 정규직원으로 일하고 있습니다! So, I have been pretty busy. It’s my first job after completing my Masters degree. And I have loads to learn as it is a training period for me, for at least the next couple of months. Therefore, a typical day for me thesedays consists of going to work, and after coming home from work – reviewing and studying a lot of things related to my work. So, I’ve rarely had any time to squeeze in some proper “Korean” studying time. (I am missing it like crazy!).  Strangely, I am knackered by the time I reach home although the work is not that difficult (‘t must be due to concentrating too much at work). But I am finally getting used to my daily routine and I’ve been planning & organizing my time so that I am able to, not just squeeze in my 한국어 time, but rather let it shove in and push its way around to grab the lion’s share of my off-work-hours. Also, of course, I need to manage my time for blogging too!


 

Anyways, today as my “Comeback” post (컴백 포스트) (and perhaps my last post for 2015, Gosh! Can’t believe, its 2016 already!) , I want to talk about a unique habit (Can you even call it a habit?) that I have seemed to develop as a result of my Korean Language Learning. Continue reading

Can you hear it too? 들려요? — November 16, 2015

Can you hear it too? 들려요?

Spoiler Alert!
Watch this video if you’ve already watched the drama: “I can hear your voice” -너의 목소리가 들려”
OR
Watch this video if you don’t want any spoilers and if you plan to watch this drama in the future.
(Gosh! I hate spoilers!)

After watching (or rather, listening to) this OST video from the Lee Jong Suk & Lee Bo Young starring K-drama “I can hear your voice” -너의 목소리가 들려” , you must be thinking that I am going to talk about Korean dramas again. Well! Not quite! Continue reading

12 things that language learners do or feel — September 29, 2015

12 things that language learners do or feel

(Language learners who are completely into the language they are learning)

edited pic2


  1. You try to translate everything you read, hear or even think into your target language.(Street signs, book titles, article titles you see in newspapers, magazines, song lyrics you hear, daily exclamations, greetings and brief thoughts like “Oh my god!”, “Damn it!, “Thank you”, “Sorry”, etc. Just the short ones because longer sentences need too much work and you either don’t have enough time and energy to translate them or you are just too lazy to do it right now.

  2. You get super aware of the foreigners in your neighbourhood or any place you go. It’s like you grow this new receiver antenna that scans your surrounding and picks up the language you are learning. If you’re learning an Asian language, you get super alert of any Asian tourist (And Man! It is not easy telling Asians apart from other Asians). If you are learning a European language, you are extra alert of any European looking foreigner.

    Your motive however can vary depending on what kind of person you are. If you are one of the shy types, then your motive is to try to listen upon their conversation in order to test your own listening & comprehension skills. You get extremely amused if you actually manage to understand some of their conversation or at least the gist. But if you are sort of an outgoing person, you would like to make friends with them, if possible. Because it is not easy finding a language partner or someone to practise your language with. This is especially true if you are learning a language in your country or some other place and NOT in the country where your target language is spoken.


  3. You get obsessed with the TV shows, series and movies in the target language. For example, If you are learning French, you watch Tv5monde 90% of the time. If you are learning Korean, your TV remote is stuck in the switch-between-channel-mode between Kbsworld and Arirang. You know all the latest shows in the country and you also know at least five websites where you can get the best content in your target language. (Ssssssh! For free!) They do serve as excellent ways of enriching your vocabulary in your target language.

  4. You are also addicted to the music of the country of your target language. Learning lyrics and new words from the songs is one of your favourite methods of learning the language. You have apps in your mobile phone that get you the lyrics of those songs, either in the script of the language or in romanization.

  5. You make your friends and family watch your favourite programmes in your target language, even if they are not interested in them at all. This is because you want to share the joy with them and also because you think that they are missing out on a whole new world, good television content, humour, etc. Plus you make them listen to all the interesting facts you learn about the new language or the culture.

  6. You are a huge fan of a few youtubers, bloggers and websiters who produce language or culture related courses in your target language. They are no less than celebrities for you. You admire them and you would like to meet them. Besides that, you know all youtubers, bloggers and websites that teach your target language.

  7. You suddenly become curious about your old friends (friends that you no longer talk to and no longer cared much about) just because they happen to be working or living in the country of the language you are learning. So you text them out if nowhere and ask them about their whatabouts. A little deep into the conversation, you can’t wait to tell them that you are learning the language, and even show off some of your language skills to them.

  8. You are aware of all the hot news, trends and events happening in the country of your target language. You also know the recent weather conditions, upcoming festivals, etc in the country. You may or may not be aware of what is going on in your own country or your neighbouring countries for that matter, but you make conscious efforts to keep yourself updated with the buzz in the target country. This is almost 100 percent true among language learners who are friends with the native speakers of the target language and who regularly talk with them. After all, you have to find a topic that both people can associate with and talk about, right?

  9. You look for places associated with the target language or the country in your own country, such as the restaurants, stores, libraries, organizations, anything! For example, if you are learning Mandarin Chinese, you look for Chinese restaurants and go there just to be able to experience some Chinese culture. Never mind if you can barely identify a few words in Chinese. And you look for Chinese people there, the chef or the staff or even customers. And you get super annoyed if you find out that all the staff there are in fact non-Chinese, who just learnt the Chinese cuisine.

  10. You accidentally mix random words from the target language while you are conversing in your own language or in a third language. This does not happen to beginner level learners but to learners who have reached at least the elementary level. This happens more frequently to learners whose native language sentence structure is more similar to that of the target language. Usually they are these short words like with, so, because, and, to etc that secretly creep into the conversation in a language where they don’t belong at all. But it is not a bad thing at all for the language learner. It is in fact a good news. It is an indication that the language they are trying to master is coming naturally to them. As for the second person in the conversation, well, who cares what he/she thinks, right? As long as you are making progress in your language challenge.

  11. You feel the urge to use words or expressions in the target language that best describe certain feelings or situation, the words or phrases that DO NOT EXIST or CANNOT BE PERFECTLY TRANSLATED into your own language. And you feel really irritated and annoyed when you can’t find a perfect close substitute word or expression in your own language.

  12. You go cold turkey on subtitles or take similar extreme measures. This is generally done by intermediate to advanced level language learners. All of a sudden you go cold turkey on subtitled TV programmes or movies and start watching raw video materials. Moreover, you also change the language of your mobile phones to your target language. Of course it is an extreme measure and really messes up your mind. But it is an excellent way to train your brain to accept the new language. Of course there are relapses and learners often find themselves crawling back to their original language or subtitled contents. But these relapses gradually become less frequent, if you are really determined to learn the language.

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